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Each week for the rest of the year, we will rank the best thoroughbred horses in America based on their divisions. Major races at Del Mar and Saratoga shook up the rankings this week, especially in the older male division, as that race is amazingly a wide-open affair. Let’s see how things have changed from last week’s rankings!
1. Gun Runner – Even though he lost to Arrogate in Dubai, he’s now the clear number-one. The Grade 1 Woodward Stakes gives him yet another chance to widen his lead in the rankings.
2. Collected – He’s been fantastic this year and did his best running ever in the Pacific Classic. He seems to love Del Mar and will have a big shot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
3. Arrogate – In what can only be described as unbelievable, he’s now justifiably third. He has only two wins this year, and with the Breeders’ Cup Classic being at Del Mar, he has a tall task ahead of him. What a crazy game…
4. Mor Spirit – His “WOW” performance in the Met Mile officially confirmed that he’s arrived in a major way. His progression from 3 to 4 has been impressive just like Gun Runner. Saratoga could be next for him.
5. Keen Ice – You have to love the consistency that this horse provides. He brings the same effort each and every time, and he proved that once again with a nice second-place effort in the Whitney.
Sleeper: Cupid – He’s scheduled to return this week at Del Mar in a small stakes race. You can’t sleep on this horse; he was really good in his last race.
1. Stellar Wind – She made it three Grade 1 wins in a row with another narrow win over Vale Dori once again in the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch. At this point, she has a nice lead over Songbird in the division, but one race could change it all.
2. Songbird – She proved victorious in the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap, but it was not as impressive as you would think. She’ll run in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga this weekend.
3. Lady Eli – Her tremendous performance in the Grade 1 Diana now gives her a shot in this division, as it was her second Grade 1 win of the year (following the Gamely). It’s going to be tough to overtake the top two, but she is now within range.
4. Vale Dori – Even though she lost again to Stellar Wind, I moved her up a spot. She battled all the way down to the wire with before being narrowly defeated. She’s ranked behind three horses who are Hall of Fame-caliber.
5. Forever Unbridled – She had an absolutely perfect return to the races in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs. She won under a hand ride and is now ready to take on Songbird in the Personal Ensign this weekend.
Sleeper: Paulassilverlining – Quietly having a tremendous sprint season, she’ll try to make it four in a row this weekend in the Grade 1 Ballerina.
1. Oscar Performance – The Secretariat victory gives him back-to-back Grade 1 triumphs and easily puts him at number one. How the dirt horses fare over the next three months will be critical to him staying number one, but if the season ended today, he would win the Eclipse Award for this division.
2. Irap – He’s run two good races in a row and owns a win over the Haskell winner, so amazingly, he is the top dirt horse in the division. There is still plenty left to be decided here starting with the Travers Stakes this week.
3. Girvin – What an incredible race for him in the Grade 1 Haskell Stakes when he defeated McCraken right at the wire despite not having the greatest trip. That’s two great races from him in a row, as he was also solid in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby. He’ll try for the elusive Haskell/Travers double this Saturday.
4. Good Samaritan – Wow… maybe he wanted to run on dirt all along. He defeated the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness winners in what was basically a gallop for him. If he can win the Travers, he’ll move up to number one, and he has a big chance to do just that.
5. Always Dreaming – On resume alone, he’s still number one, and as poor as he was in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy, I guess it’s meaningful that he finished third. However, he has been bad in his last two races, and I don’t see him winning another. He’ll try again in the the Travers this weekend.
Sleeper: The Baffert duo of West Coast and American Anthem could easily come to Saratoga on Travers Day and win both the Travers and the Jerkens Stakes. Wins by either one will catapult them into the rankings and put them right in the mix.
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1. Abel Tasman – Thoroughly entrenched now as the number one horse in this division after her third straight Grade 1 victory, she should have the Eclipse Award in the bag – as long as she doesn’t completely fall apart.
2. Lady Aurelia – She gave us a quite a thrill at Royal Ascot when winning the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes. The long-term goal for this international star will be the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
3. Elate – Based on current form, she seems to be doing better than any others in this division. Abel Tasman will be hard to take down from the top spot, but this filly is really starting to hit her stride after winning the Alabama.
4. Unique Bella – She’s easily number one based on talent, but we must respect Abel Tasman for winning the Kentucky Oaks and Acorn. At this point, her passing Abel Tasman is becoming more and more unlikely. She put in her first timed workout at Del Mar on August 20.
5. Unchained Melody – Something went terribly wrong for her in the Alabama, so I’m giving her a pass for now. Thankfully she seems to be ok after stopping and being pulled up.
Sleeper: American Gal – She deserves to be mentioned after dominating rivals in the Grade 1 Test. If she keeps running like that, she’ll be ranked in the top 5 very soon.
1. Mind Your Biscuits – He demolished the field in the Grade 2 Belmont Sprint Championship to earn the number-one spot. His level of improvement is off the charts, and he’ll run this Saturday in the Grade 1 Forego Stakes.
2. Danzing Candy – It’s hard to deny how good he’s looked in his last two races, and his 107 Beyer speed figure in the Grade 2 San Carlos is scary-good. With the craziness that happened to Drefong in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby, this horse may now be the number-one sprinter for Baffert.
3. El Deal – He absolutely destroyed the field in the Grade 1 Vanderbilt Handicap. Trainer Jorge Navarro has him running at a level that will make him hard to beat – his early speed is deadly. He’s on target for the Forego.
4. Sharp Azteca – It’s easy to forget about him, but he is easily the second-best dirt mile horse in the country. He had a stellar return at Monmouth Park on Haskell Day.
5. Drefong – So we waited eight months for that… wow! The Bing Crosby was certainly an adventure, as he bucked jockey Mike Smith right at the start, and now I wonder how he’ll come back from that. He could get major redemption with a win in the Forego this weekend.
Sleeper: Imperial Hint – He’s been forgotten about because we haven’t seen him in a while. He was impressive in the Grade 3 Smile Sprint a couple of months back at Gulfstream Park.
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